NET Power, a partnership between McDermott, Exelon, 8 Rivers Capital and Occidental, was recently featured in POWER Magazine and E&E News.
The articles, both published on November 27, 2019, highlight the "first-of-its-kind" supercritical CO
cycle unique to the NET Power demonstration project and currently under development for commerical development.
SAN ANTONIO — A partner in NET Power LLC said it's evaluating sites for a commercial version of the natural gas power plant it labeled a "great success" as a pilot project in Texas that aims for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
"There's a couple sites in Texas that we're looking at now," Mike McGroddy, a principal at 8 Rivers Capital LLC, NET Power's founder, said last week. "There are a couple sites elsewhere in the U.S. and internationally, as well."
McGroddy, who spoke at a conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in San Antonio, suggested that Texas could be the site of the first commercial NET Power unit. But a decision has not been announced. The 45Q federal tax credit for carbon capture and storage is among the factors that could help a commercial NET Power plant in the United States. It plans to have a roughly 300-megawatt electric commercial plant operating in 2022, though that's later than a previous goal.
The opening of such a facility would be a milestone for the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) industry and the electricity sector, which continues to search for ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions and address climate concerns. It remains to be seen how many similar facilities might materialize, but NET Power could eventually be at multiple sites. NET Power gained attention in recent years because of its La Porte, Texas, demonstration project, which it described in May 2018 as "the world's only industrial-scale supercritical carbon dioxide-based power plant and CO2 cycle test facility."
That was the month NET Power said it achieved "first fire" at the La Porte plant, the world's largest attempt to use carbon dioxide rather than steam to drive a turbine. Its capacity was listed at about 50 MW of thermal energy, or about 25 MW of electricity. While NET Power remains tight-lipped about certain aspects of its operations, interest remains in how the pilot project is doing. Some skepticism lingers about the design's economics and any potential emissions related to the process or its byproducts (Greenwire, Jan. 16, 2018).
The project uses what's known as the Allam cycle, which is named for Rodney Allam. It seeks to address what NET Power has called two problems: a reliance on steam as an inefficient working fluid and tackling air emissions as an afterthought.
NET Power's setup, according to a past release, burns natural gas with oxygen and uses high-pressure CO2 to turn a turbine. The company said it can generate electricity, "pipeline-ready" carbon dioxide, argon and nitrogen. Sequestration and enhanced oil recovery are among the potential uses for the CO2, according to NET Power.
Besides 8 Rivers Capital, partners in NET Power include McDermott International Inc., the Oxy Low Carbon Ventures LLC subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Exelon Corp.'s Exelon Generation subsidiary.
"Exelon Generation is evaluating ways of participating in the development of a commercial scale 300 MW NET Power facility," the company said in a statement to E&E News.
Oxy Low Carbon Ventures said in its own statement that "NET Power's power generation technology with inherent carbon capture...complements Occidental's leadership in CO2 utilization and sequestration, making us ideal partners to tackle carbon emissions worldwide."
Turning to coal
NET Power told E&E News its goal is to eventually have the same capital costs as a combined-cycle facility. The cost of a combined-cycle plant that relies on natural gas and exhaust heat to produce power can be less than $1,000 per kilowatt in some places.
The company said it aims to be competitive initially by counting byproduct revenues, and at maturity without counting such revenues.
Jesse Jenkins, an assistant professor at Princeton University who studies energy systems engineering, said NET Power's goals could be achievable. But he is trying to take a "show me" attitude, given the complexity that comes with building projects.
"It would be an attractive complement, from a techno-economic perspective, to variable renewables," Jenkins told E&E News.
If NET Power works as its backers claim, any carbon price would put "this technology in the money versus combined cycle or any other fossil fuel electricity generation that does not have CO2 capture," said Ed Hirs, a natural resources fellow at BDO USA LLP and an energy fellow at the University of Houston.
McGroddy said the pilot project in Texas produces power but doesn't export it as it goes through testing programs, though he suggested it could potentially participate in market dynamics in the future.
"We've had great success" at the demonstration facility, he said.
McGroddy said Texas was chosen for the pilot project because it's a global energy center, with potential customers and potential investors. There also are industries and assets that need to be decarbonized in the state, he said, and Texas has experience in transporting, managing and storing carbon.
"We see reducing carbon emissions, carbon capture, carbon storage as a real near-term and highly effective and critical solution ... to tackling the climate problem," he said.
McGroddy said deploying new technologies in Texas also is straightforward, suggesting that people at a state environmental agency are open to understanding a new project.
Meanwhile, 8 Rivers Capital continues to push ahead with a coal version of the idea separately from NET Power.
An announcement last month showed that the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and the National Energy Technology Laboratory included 8 Rivers Capital among the parties with conceptual designs to receive funding to go ahead with preliminary front-end engineering design studies.
It's part of the Coal FIRST initiative — representing flexible, innovative, resilient, small and transformative proposals. The release said the Allam cycle has the potential to generate power at a lower cost than conventional fossil generation with over 97% CO2 capture and near-zero air emissions.
"In this project, the team will integrate coal gasification and the Allam Cycle core technology currently being proven by NET Power (a separate entity advancing the Allam Cycle on natural gas)," the announcement said.